What is post mortem paternity testing and how does one establish paternity once the alleged father is dead and buried? Where the biological relationship between different people has to be determined, it is normal to employ a DNA test to resolve any dispute. Although the test can involve complex science, the sampling procedures are simple, generally involving a swab taken from the inside of the cheek. A DNA paternity test is the type of test most frequently carried out, and the sample collection procedure is complicated if the subject being tested is deceased.

What are the available options?

While most would believe that it would no longer be able to establish the relationship indisputably, it is still possible to do so.  There are options available, such as utilising what is referred to as DNA relationship screening, involving testing close relatives of the deceased, such as parents, grandparents, siblings and blood nieces, nephews, cousins, uncles and aunts and so on.  The results can often establish whether or not the deceased was likely to be the father or not.

In addition to this, there are also more direct options of obtaining samples from the deceased, and three of these are discussed here.

Case 1 – The Alleged Father has Recently Died

It is possible to take a sample from the alleged father, if he has been dead for no more than a week. The sample should involve more robust tissue, such as a hair with the root or fingernail clippings. Both are preferable, and while they are more difficult to process than an oral swab, a proficient laboratory should be able to handle it. The DNA from these samples can be used to determine paternity – but make sure that you get permission to take the samples first.

Case 2 – The Nature of the Sample

A major problem can exist if the alleged father is not only deceased, but has also been interred.  In such a case, you won’t be able to use a sample direct from the body, and will have to seek some other indirect sample. It might sound the stuff of novels, but DNA samples can be taken from cigarette butts, drinking glasses and hairbrushes, and is just as relevant for DNA comparison testing as oral swabs are. However, there has to be enough of it, and such samples tend to be fairly small with too low a yield of DNA to allow proper comparison.  However, it is a viable possibility to consider.

Case 3 – When Exhumation is Necessary

Exhumation will be necessary when circumstances are so extreme as to require it.  You don’t do this on a whim, but when there are legitimate legal reasons for paternity to be established. You should also use the services of somebody experienced in this type of work, such as a forensic expert or pathologist.

Where the body has been buried for a long time, and only skeletal remains are available, sufficient bone should be taken to provide enough DNA for the comparison. The best area of bone is the neck of the femur, or the humerus, and a 2 gram sample should be sufficient to offer the amount of DNA needed by the analyst.

If you have a case where the alleged father is not available for testing and would like to discuss further then we suggest you contact easyDNA directly to discuss further. At easyDNA we also offer advanced DNA Forensic Testing services which can process even the most difficult samples. Make sure you only use a reliable testing company for such delicate cases!